By Anne Maxson
In 2005, I was serving as a missionary in the Eastern United States. As the only member of the church in my family, I struggled with not having the family support of other missionaries. My family didn’t really understand what it meant to have a missionary in the field and how to support them.
I rarely heard from my family and when I did they didn’t share sweet and uplifting stories. I tried sharing the gospel with my family through letters home but they flat out refused to meet with the local missionaries. Instead of being frustrated, I strove to share the gospel with others knowing that maybe the people I met with had a daughter, (or son), who was praying for them to meet the missionaries and accept the gospel.
I felt a bit lonely heading into General Conference weekend. When President Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles got up to speak at the April 2005 general conference, I felt a distinct impression that I needed to pay close attention to what he was about to say.
He started his talk with these words: “My message is to those who are converts to the Church. … You are not the exception in the Church. To you, I wish to say how much the Lord loves you and trusts you. And even more, I wish to tell you how much He depends on you.” He definitely had my attention.
He went on to say, “When someone tells me that he or she is a convert to the Church, I ask, ‘Has anyone else in your family accepted the gospel?’ When the answer is ‘Yes,’ there follows an excited description of the happy miracle in the life of a parent or a brother or sister or a grandparent. There is joy in knowing that someone in his or her family is sharing the blessing and the happiness. When the answer is ‘No, so far I am the only member,’ he or she will almost always speak of parents, saying something like this, ‘No, not yet. But I am still trying.’ And you can tell from the sound in the voice that the convert will never stop trying, not ever.”
Later, he talked about temple work and the missionary work that goes on in the Spirit World. “Think of a faithful missionary standing there with those he has loved and taught who are your ancestors. Picture as I do the smile on the face of that missionary as you walk up to him and your ancestors whom he converted but could not baptize or have sealed to family until you came to the rescue. I do not know what the protocol will be in such a place, but I imagine arms thrown around your neck and tears of gratitude.”
Since then, I have found joy in taking family names to the temple. My connection to those family members on the other side of the veil has been strengthened and I have seen miracles as I’ve tried to find their names.
Going back to 2005, the next General Conference in October was a few days after I completed my missionary service. My mom came to pick me up from my mission and we stayed through the weekend. I invited her to watch the sessions with me at the Stake Center. She said she’d attend one session but after the first one she wanted to attend more and since that time she has frequently enjoyed watching and listening to General Conference.
When I saw my grandmother for the first time after my mission, she shared a list of names to take to the temple. And, years later, just days before she passed away, she made me promise to do her temple work for her.
What experiences have you had that helped you to recognize the interconnectedness of Missionary Work and Temple and Family History Work?